And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
--William Butler Yeats
To say that we live in the ‘post-Christian’ era is simply to acknowledge what we all know to be true: that Christianity has ceased to be the dominant cultural narrative in Western Culture. While we may not know exactly when this came to be, the dis-establishment of Christianity is now almost complete.
But our culture has also been living with a fiction that it can exist without an over arching narrative, that it can live without a cohesive set of principles to unite it together. We call this disbelief in truth ‘postmodernism’ and it’s failure has nearly been complete. People are now beginning to realize that if society is going to function, there needs to be a common consensus on at least a few important truths.
In fact, societies have always lived with an ‘orthodox’ narrative, one that has shaped and framed the debates that occur in broad popular culture. Often times these ‘orthodoxies’ are in place long before they become the dominant culture. They work at a popular level and become something like the air people breathe. Often times, without knowing it, it creeps within the minds of people and expresses itself in popular culture. There is usually no huge Council that affirms the truth of a particular worldview, until the worldview is firmly in place.
For instance, the ancient Greeks and Romans had long abandoned the worldview of the old gods long before it was replaced with Christianity. The medieval world had long abandoned the ancient cosmologies before they were replaced with more modern sciences.
Today the same principles are at work. Societies are in constant states of change. As Christianity has been dismantled as the dominant story, the new Orthodoxy has been coming into being. The weaknesses of the Church have been exposed and exploited and ultimately the Christian answer was found wanting. It took nearly two centuries to displace Christianity on many different fronts. Biblical criticism, philosophical relativism, exposure of the sins of clergy and lay alike, and an advancement of scientific knowledge have all worked together to demonstrate to Western Culture that Christianity did not work.
The vacuum that has existed for the last fifty years has hardly worked any better and we are now at last seeing the failure of the postmodern project. The fatal flaw for postmodernism is that it simply doesn’t work. You cannot say that “all truth is relative,” but then act as if there are absolutes. For example, if everything is permissible, then the more extreme cases of murder and exploitation are permissible. But no modern ethicist can possibly say that and culture will not accept this. We may be fine with murdering our babies in the womb, but there is no way that killing five year olds is ever morally permissible. Thus our modern world has been living with a hypocrisy that it has not wanted to own up to. It was almost as if we were saying, ‘everything is permissible….that we want to be…,” but we ignored the larger philosophical implications of such logic.
But at last, we are beginning to see the New Orthodoxy emerge from the ashes of postmodernism. The following is a brief sketch of some of the major overtones of this New Orthodoxy, as I have seen it. Remember that is just a sketch. The New Orthodoxy has not yet been completely or authoritatively recognized, but there are some of the themes that will be. This is also not an attempt to evaluate the right or wrongness of these positions, but merely to describe the position. Bias is certainly inevitable, but not intended.
Explicit Atheism. In the Renaissance, God was relegated to the place as a ‘watchmaker’ who may have created the earth, but surely had nothing to do with the day to day operation of the earth. Jesus was taken off the throne so that he may take his seat among the great moral teachers of mankind. The supernatural was scientifically outlawed and turned into fables and myth.
Today the underlying assumption in Western Culture is not that God is not involved…it is that He does not exist. Atheists at one point were the minority and only a brave few would dare to suggest that God does not exist. Today, all of science, physical and social, operate under the presupposition that God does not exist. People have become increasingly hostile towards the religious people. Modern books hold the titles of God is Not Great, The God Delusion, and Is Christianity Good for the World. Social scientists do all they can to explain religion as a part of religious anthropology.
Religious people of all faiths are mocked and ridiculed and the sacred has become profane. It is only a matter of time before the majority of the world will have ‘moved on’ from belief in God and to make sure that it believes in only scientific and rational things.
Religion is viewed as evil and a (or in some cases, the) cause of all evil in the world. From something as innocuous and benign as a “COEXIST” bumper sticker which subliminally suggests that religion causes all war. No mention is made of the millions who have died in atheism’s name.
But the New Orthodoxy claims atheism as it its creed.
Extreme feminism The New Orthodoxy has no place for maleness in it. Being male is seen as a disfunction.
Older cultures have always viewed that there is a unique existence in being male. While in some cultures, men unjustly dominated women, there was always something different about being a man. Men were supposed to live up to the traditions of honor and courage and to act in a way to protect the family from foreign powers.
We can debate all day whether this is right or wrong, but what is important is that in the New Orthodoxy, men are to be the second class citizens.
In our popular culture men are declared to be imbeciles. Fair depictions of courageous men are few and far between. Even in a children’s book series like the Bernstein Bears, men are seen as incompetent and must wait for the Mother Bear to fix everything. Political columnist Maureen Doud recently wrote a book entitled Are Men are Necessary? in which she gives a negative answer to the question.
What is it about men that must be replaced? In the New Orthodoxy, we must emasculate any image of men as heroes, or of men as providers, or of men as protectors. These images, in the New Orthodoxy’s wisdom, has only led to war and violence and imprisonment.
In the Lord of the Flies, we see the complete de-evolution of men from a working society to a group of savages killing each other. William Golding, the author of the book, could not conceive of the same thing happening to a group of young girls, for the female mind would work together and build a society and work towards a solution.
And so we see the elimination of anything ‘masculine.’ Our heroes are becoming effeminate men who recognize that women are almost always right. Or, the heroes are becoming women who act in ways that men used to. With the rise of homosexuality, we see the decline of the traditional role of men.
The New Orthodoxy embraces the female as the ideal for society and we must do the same.
Aligned to the Left. The era of conservatism in the West is over and the political Left has won the battle.
The 2008 Presidential Election has been heralded, rightly so, as a watershed moment. This moment, above any other demonstrates the defeat of the conservative movement as any real force in American Politics.
In the past, differences of politics were cast in light of political conversation. Today, one’s morality is tied up with one’s political stance. Rush Limbaugh is seen by many as an evil man because he advocates for a free market economy. Thomas Sowell is misguided at best and manipulated at worst. Even political moderates such as President George W. Bush are seen as evil and hateful men.
Those who have aligned to the Left are seen as heroes and people who have overcome injustice. For example, Bill Ayers, a man linked to bombings in the Pentagon and other public buildings, is heralded as a hero for standing against the conservative mainstream of America. Even today, the Boston Bomber, has his face plastered on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in an attempt to ‘hear his side.’
We see this alignment taking place everywhere in our culture. In popular culture, the villians almost always wind up being white business men who want to make a profit by killing either an endangered animal or tree or just innocent people.
The causes of the Left are seen as moral and just. Many of these causes see the increase of government power in order to ‘level the playing field’ or to ensure equality. The advocates of limited government are seen as hateful people who are only self-interested and self-motivated and must be defeated for the sake of civilization.
A Warning The time of the New Orthodoxy is upon us and I think that it is high time that we recognized this. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is yet to be seen.
But there is always a warning to behold.
Whenever there is an Orthodoxy, there is always heresy. Heresy is almost always the teaching against orthodoxy. And wherever there is heresy, there is always an effort to rid the culture of the stench of heresy. Because Orthodoxy always carries with it the lure of power and of authority.
To my dismay, I look up on Church history and see the efforts to stamp out heresy. The Nazis, too, attempted to eradicate heresy. Stalin, Mao, the Spartans, the Shi’a, the Sunni, Che and all others have attempted to rid the world of heresies. Always with violence and always with prejudice.
And so, we have the beginning of a New Orthodoxy, and I will pray that it’s reign will be peaceful. But if the shadows of history teach us anything, along with a New Orthodoxy come the “re-education” camps to beat the heresy out of the people it holds sway over.